Editor's Note: Microsoft as Benchmark? Pfft! Think Again!
Jun 04, 2004, 23:30 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
Re-Imagining Linux Platforms to Meet the Needs of Cloud Service Providers
By Brian Proffitt
I had a very interesting conversation with a Linux businessman
That, in itself, was not unusual. I have lots of conversations
with business and development folk over the course of my work
day--some sort of interesting, some not so interesting. There are a
lot of people who are involved in Free and Open Source software who
want to get their messages out to a lot more people. Sites like
Linux Today can help them meet that need, they hope.
You might be surprised, or not, at how many people want to get a
message out to the Linux community or the broader IT community that
says: "Hey, we use Linux to do this, this, and that, please buy our
product..." and it turns out their committment to open source is a
bit more lax than they would have your believe.
Understand, you don't have to be an idealist to be able to
create and market a decent open source product. Opera makes a great
browser, but they ain't open source.
It's no secret the Linux market is much more receptive to those
companies for pay more than lip service to open code. And here's
the thing: I am starting to see signs that the mainstream IT market
is thinking along the same lines, too.
Access to code, in some way or another, is becoming more of a
selling point than ever.
Back to the conversation: much of what was discussed was
embargoed, so I can't share it yet. I will later. But the part that
was the most interesting to me was that this person was the first
person I have met who pitched their product and did not compare it
to any Microsoft product.
And this wasn't avoiding a comparison because they thought they
could not stand toe-to-toe with the behemoth from Redmond. From the
discussion and the documents, I was left with the genuine
impression that they simply did not care how their product stacked
up against its Microsoft counterpart. Instead, they made their
comparisions solely against Red Hat, SUSE, and Sun.
At that moment, I realized, another watershed moment had passed:
Linux has become strong enough that it no longer has to be compared
with Windows. These people know that IT admins and CIOs are getting
so clued in to open source, they don't need to see endless
comparisions with Microsoft or other proprietary wares. Linux can
stand on its own and be comparison shopped with different flavors
Now, to be fair, I think more than a little part of this
particular company's approach was because they are trying to get in
front of disgruntled Windows admins who facing see end-of-life
support for Windows NT 4 in December and are looking for something
else. So, openly comparing it to Microsoft might backfire. But even
with that slightly cynical point of view, we are still at a point
in Linux' evolution where this sort of approach is actually
If this approach continues, we may soon see IT admins looking
more at open source as a favored feature rather than a curious
oddity. Their mindset when talking to salespeople might be: "You're
open source, right? Good, fine. Now, tell me why you're better than
Distros X, Y, and Z."
The end result of this line of thinking is that the whole
concept of free and open source software may be taken for granted
someday. Being taken for granted is both good and bad, of course.
Universal acceptance of FOSS would be Good. Complacency of licenses
would be Bad.
Some would argue that this comparing between Linux flavors will
lead to more in-fighting. They have a point. Jonathan Schwartz's
recent remarks calling Red Hat a proprietary operating system is
just one big symptom of that kind of behavior. I won't argue the
validity of these remarks (though I think I could take a run at
them. Could you people at Sun be any more contrary?), but I think
we're going to see more of the same between all the distros soon,
particularly the ones heavily invested in the enterprise.
While I am usually one for peace and calm, I am not convinced
that such competiveness would be bad for the Linux community. In
moderation, conflict can be good for all sides. Competition can
breed innovation. When it just gets silly is where the problems
begin, such as endless flamewars.
Such competiveness will be good for the Linux community in
another way as well... it will help reduce the fixation some in the
community have for Microsoft. As I have said before, there are
other more important things to worry about. I think Microsoft and
its proprietary cohorts just bait open sourcers just to distract
and make them look bad.
This is a new stage for Linux, and I, for one, am glad to see it
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